It seems like the only thing that I have to write about this last few months is our never ending dry spell and it still goes on, to the degree that people probably believe that I'm making it up! I was down in Surrey at my partner's house for a few days this week and could only look in envy at her nice green lawns. We had a pleasant walk on Wednesday along the nearby River Blackwater, it's not a very wide river and it is surrounded in places by great, large oaks and other trees as it winds it's way gently through the water meadows. But it entrances me to see lovely clean water continually flowing past and seeing the water weeds all straining to go with it to wherever it is going. I found myself comparing it with the current ditches and dykes back here on Sheppey, now either dry or just a simple inch of stagnant water and black mud that have lost all semblance of what they should represent on the marshland habitat.
As I drove back on to Sheppey yesterday morning it was like driving into the dry, arid countryside of southern Spain in mid-summer, none of the green meadows of Surrey here, just endless fields of whitish yellow dryness and baked and cracked ground. My garden was just as depressing, 50% of the lawns are dead and cracked and half of the patio slabs are visibly sloping downwards due to the ground shrinking beneath them. For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to dig over and prepare a new rose border ready for roses that should arrive next month and that became almost comical. I was having to jump up and down on the spade in order to just get it to penetrate the soil before turning huge clods of clay that wouldn't break up. Eventually I resorted to watering the soil for several nights in order to soften it up to a reasonable degree and then had another go at digging it.
But despite the dryness and lack of most things wildfowl, there were some rays of light last week. At the extreme western end of the reserve, on the saltings below Harty Church, an Osprey on passage back to Africa, stopped off for a few days. Several times it was seen to go out over the tidal Swale and return with a fish that it ate on a post on the saltings. Just before it departed for good it was replaced by a much rarer juvenile Pallid Harrier, which replaced it at almost the same spot. Seen best from the rear of the tiny Harty Church, the bird attracted a largish number of twitchers, an external congregation worshipping a bird rather than the Man Above. The bird finally flew across The Swale on Sunday afternoon and didn't return, taking with it the twitchers, who have no time for ordinary things.
See the dry and dusty track across the marsh (sorry about the light quality, it was a gloomy morning)
The cattle looking for some nourishment in the dusty and yellow conditions.
The view across the grazing marsh
and the start of the seawall and it's yellow adjoining field.
One of the reserve's ditches, reduced to an inch of stinking water in the bottom of it.